Judges 4

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 9, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

The chapter of Judges 4 is too long to quote here, so please go read it here before continuing on, so this blog post will make more sense.

With all of the “gender issues” that have been in the news recently, it’s interesting that gender can be perceived as a significant thing in this passage. One way to look at it is, “Wow - Israel had a female judge? That’s pretty cool!” Another interpretation is, “Wow, Deborah was a great judge! Oh yeah, I guess she was female too.” A lot of people turn the story of Deborah into one in which gender is the main focus, especially in today’s culture where gender is often a hotly debated issue, whether it’s the issue of women pastors, a possible female president, transgender issues, or a variety of others. It’s true that Deborah was the only recorded female judge of Israel, but her actions are significant regardless of her gender.

I must admit that I have a personal connection to the story of Deborah. I’m a woman working in the predominantly male field of engineering, and I also often serve in a pastoral role as well in various churches. So I’m used to being a female in a world of males. Not only that, but my parents actually named me Deborah when I was born. (Nobody ever really called me that though, and I legally changed my name when I was 21 years old… but that’s a long story.)

So what’s the story of Deborah all about? Deborah was the judge, and she followed the Lord in appointing a man named Barak to command 10,000 men in fighting this battle (verse 6). Barak, however, wouldn’t go to battle without Deborah (verse 8)! This seems unusual, right - a man not wanting to be brave and courageous and go into battle without taking a woman? That shows the type of confidence and authority that Deborah had as the judge of Israel.

Deborah tells Barak that she’ll go along, but because he wouldn’t go without her, he won’t receive the glory for the win. Verse 9 implies that Deborah will receive the glory instead, but stay tuned!

The enemy they were fighting against was a man named Sisera and his army. Sisera had a large army, complete with iron chariots, which definitely gave them an advantage over Israel. God was with Israel, so Sisera’s entire army was slaughtered - verse 16 tells us that not a man was left! Sisera survived the battle and fled on foot. Sisera’s family had an alliance with a family nearby, that of Heber the Kenite, so that’s where he headed. And that’s where we see the other woman in this story - Jael.

Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite, and she met Sisera at her tent. She pretends to be protecting him, but then the tables are turned - she kills him, with a tent peg! Barak comes by, and Jael shows him Sisera’s dead body.

So who got the glory? Barak’s army won the battle, but Jael actually received the glory for killing Sisera, their opponent’s commander.

Both Deborah and Jael are significant in this story, not just because they’re female, but because they were obedient to what God wanted them to do, whether big things or small things. Deborah had the big job of being the leader over all of Israel, and she was obedient to God because Israel had God’s favor in winning the battle. Jael ended up with a small job of killing Sisera, and she was obedient to God in that.

Regardless of your gender, how are you being obedient to God? Are you doing what He asks you to, even if it seems crazy? We as followers of Christ are all called to hear God’s voice and obey it.

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